B.J. Novak is a favorite for fans of the office or from his appearance in Inglorious Bastards. In his directorial debut though, how well does that comedic timing play out in this dark comedy about the death of a girl he hooked up with and barely remembers?
VENGEANCE is a brilliant dark comedy, written and directed by B.J. Novak (“The Office”). Ben Manalowitz (B.J. Novak) is an aspiring podcaster who travels from New York to West Texas to investigate the death of a woman he had been hooking up with and finds himself drawn into a full-scale mystery and her brother’s ill-considered plot to avenge the crime.
B.J. Novak makes his directorial debut with Vengeance. This dark comedy revolves around an aspiring podcaster (Novak) who gets mistakenly drawn into a murder mystery about a girl whom he once had a brief hookup with. After going to the funeral, he is inspired to do a podcast about hookup culture and gets a well-known established producer in the podcast world to take on being his editor. Ashton Kutcher’s role as a music producer in the town, morphs into a more complex tale of life there in rural texas. And Novak’s character takes a dark turn in the final 5 min of the film. The twist doesn’t feel well timed or built out around the development of Ben (Novak).
Overall the entire story is shallow at best, and the death of the girl is really not all that important to the story either. Drugs, parties, legal gray areas, border security, and cartels all make reference in the story but none of them are fully explored. Perhaps that was the intent but the comedy was mediocre and the dark side only really hit in the final moments of the film. The film is trying to tell us something, but it feels like it’s still trying to figure out what, even in the final moments of the film.
As a dark comedy, it’s not the worst film to come out of that genre, and Novak’s writing does have some good punch lines at various points. But overall Vengeance isn’t a film that’s going to peak out ahead of anything else in the genre or be remembered long after you leave the theatre. If anything, a New York podcaster visiting deep southern Texas and watching the cultural interactions between those two very different groups was mildly entertaining.